Although the proposed National Medical Commission Bill, which creates a body to replace the MCI, has several progressive clauses on regulation of malpractice and misconduct by hospitals, it is still hanging fire in Parliament.
The recent attack on doctors in a public hospital in West Bengal, by a mob alleging medical negligence, is a symptom of a larger unmet need—a formal mechanism for grievance redressal in healthcare that inspires trust. While it is not known yet if there was, indeed, negligence as alleged in the Bengal incident—given the typical burden on government hospitals, it is likely that the staff was already stretched too thin—there are enough cases of medical negligence and malpractice while patients have very little recourse against transgressing doctors and hospitals. Indeed, while the now-defunct Medical Council of India (MCI)—the regulator of the healthcare ecosystem in India that comprised solely of medicos and degenerated into a cabal that protected corrupt doctors and hospitals—had no data on medical negligence, a 2016 Parliamentary Committee report notes that just 109 doctors had been indicted by the MCI’s Ethics Committee between 1963-2009.
Although the proposed National Medical Commission Bill, which creates a body to replace the MCI, has several progressive clauses on regulation of malpractice and misconduct by hospitals, it is still hanging fire in Parliament. While taking the legal route is one option—under IPC provisions, under the Consumer Protection Act following the judgment in the Indian Medical Association vs VP Shantha, or tort laws, that path is beset with delays. Till the government provides for an effective redressal mechanism, West Bengal like incidents, however unfortunate, will continue to occur.